Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Michael C. Russonella, graduated from Nutley High School in 1992 with more than a diploma. He left with a definite idea for a career. Dr. Russonella explains: “I hurt my shoulder in my senior year while playing football for Nutley against St. Joseph,” Russonella recalled. “My dad wasn’t satisfied with the diagnosis and we ended up taking a train to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit world-renowned surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.”
Besides being a highly skilled surgeon specializing in knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries, Dr. Andrews had a quality that greatly impacted Russonella’s future. “Even though I was young, he explained my injury and repair to me in a clear way. He took time to help me understand what was involved and that stuck with me,” Russonella said.
This encounter changed Russonella’s career path. Originally wanting to become a teacher and high school football coach, after his interaction with Dr. Andrews, he decided to pursue a medical degree. Today, Russonella is a board certifed orthopedic surgeon specializing in bone and joint injuries as well as sports injuries.
But Dr. Russonella also developed several of the characteristics that he originally admired in Dr. Andrews, specifically, respect and empathy. “As a former high school athlete, I understand how a young person feels after an injury. It’s not just the pain or the recovery; it’s the uncertainty of wondering if they will be able to get back on the field again,” he said.
Dr. Russonella said, “My main objective is to help patients overcome injuries and resume a healthy active lifestyle. I am very mindful of the fact that in high school sports, there are only so many games to play each season, and I understand the importance of getting athletes back on their teams.”
“In our practice, we use non-surgical and minimally invasive surgical procedures to bring about the shortest possible recovery times,” he adds. “We are also very accessible. We try to accommodate same-day or next-day appointments and we are here on Saturdays as well.”
As a graduate of Nutley High School, Russonella feels a commitment to this area. He said, “I could have opened my medical practice anywhere in the country but chose to remain in this area. Most of my patients are referrals from people who know and trust me.”
Currently, he is the team physician for both Passaic High School and Queen of Peace High School. Dr. Russonella is not only a skilled orthopedic surgeon, he is someone who has played sports, loves sports, and understands firsthand the many aspects, both physical and emotional, of a sports injury.